I’m one of the stubborn Southsiders who refused to follow an order to leave my home on Ootsa Lake.
Actually I’m a guide/outfitter for the Cheslatta Carrier Nation and general manager of the Pondosy Bay Wilderness Resort in North Tweedsmuir Park. My home sits on Ootsa Lake..where my family has been since they came here in the early 1900s. We have no power or phone so interaction with the ‘outside’ is limited to the time we fire up the generator and get the internet satellite dish running.
I keep seeing the headlines on our area and have seen a lot of comments about how we were told to leave because our chances to leave could be cut off at any moment as the fire swallows up the community.
I just want to make it clear to the rest of the world, who sees this and gives them the opinion that we’re a bunch of suicidal hillbillies, the reality of that situation. The Southside, as we are called is serviced from Burns Lake, which is on the north side of Francois Lake, and serviced by a car ferry operated by Waterbridge. It is not the only way to our community…and certainly not the only way out!
We are a logging community with roads that wind and connect every community over here. Within the community itself, I can travel to many other parts either by the main road … or go the ‘back way’ … winding down logging roads, across hayfields, through and over bridges made by the locals … yes the same locals who are now fighting these fires!
We are open to Houston in the west…again, not only by one road but either by the main road or a network of back roads and logging roads. We can escape through the Kenney Dam road, again choosing to follow the main route or wind and navigate over trails and logging roads.
The Kenney Dam road is also accessible from many points on the Southside…or we can escape through the Binta forest service road through to Fraser Lake. If for some reason there’s a catastrophic boom and all of a sudden every road out of here within 10 minutes is impassible, Ootsa Lake, which sits 150 feet south of my back door will take us from harms way in an instant .. .including Kenny Dam, our lodge on Eutsuk Lake, the Jim Van Tine rail portage at Chikamin Bay, or our hunting cabins directly across the lake from our home. Between four of us within our small community right here on the lake, we have five boats in the water and ready to go!!
With the fires that have passed over quite a few of these roads, there would likely be fallen trees and garbage on the road that would have to be dealt with … most of us can handle it!! We do everyday. We built these roads …we know the consequences of having to navigate them at a time like this. We’re being portrayed as a bunch of ignorant newbies over here with one escape route. Most of us who live here BUILT this community and everything over here, including every road, trail and cow trail there is. I’m one of those people.